Cancer and Children Cancer and Children
Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Cancer Prevention Starts in Childhood

Reduce your children’s risk of getting many types of cancer later in life. Start by helping them adopt a healthy lifestyle with good eating habits and plenty of exercise to keep a healthy weight. Then follow the tips below to help prevent specific types of cancer.

Sun Safety: The Key to Skin Cancer Prevention

Most skin cancers can be prevented if children and teens (and adults, too) are protected from ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Just a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Kids don’t have to be at the beach to get too much sun. Their skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays whenever they’re outdoors.

To protect yourself and your family—

Seek shade, especially during midday hours. Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin. Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck. Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible. Put on sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.

The UV rays from tanning beds and sunlamps are as dangerous as the UV rays from the sun. Don’t let your children or teens use them. Many states restrict the use of tanning beds by children and teens.

A Vaccine to Prevent Cervical Cancer

Human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex, is the main cause of cervical cancer. The same virus also causes many vaginal and vulvar cancers.

A vaccine to prevent HPV infections is available. It protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cancer. It is given in a series of three shots. The vaccine is recommended for girls 11 and 12 years old, and for girls and women 13 to 26 years old who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. (Girls as young as age 9 can get the vaccine.)

Parents: Help protect your daughters against cervical cancer. Make sure they get the HPV vaccine.

Major Causes of Lung Cancer

Smoking. Tobacco use is the major cause of lung cancer in the United States. The best way to prevent lung cancer is not to start smoking, or quit if you do smoke. It is important to prevent adolescents from starting to smoke.

In 2009, 46.3% of high school students reported that they had at least tried smoking. One in five high school students was a current smoker.

Talk to your children about why you don’t want them to smoke.

Secondhand smoke. Smoke from other people’s cigarettes ("secondhand" smoke) can cause lung cancer. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke for nonsmokers. Don’t expose your children to secondhand tobacco smoke.

In your own home, establish a smoke-free policy